Last year, Doom Eternal easily took the prize as my favorite game of 2020. It was a beefy and addictive arena-shooter masterclass, constantly introducing new tools and challenges and wild enemies. It’s a lengthy yet rewarding experience, clocking in at around 15-20 hours long. Boomerang X is a new arena shooter from Devolver Digital, and despite being practically 1/6th of the length of my favorite game of 2020, it manages to deliver all of the same frenetic, nonstop action and constantly elevating excitement in a brisk and relentlessly brief package.
You may think an FPS arena shooter needs guns to qualify as being part of that genre, but Boomerang X kindly asks you to shut up because you are wrong and a boomerang is a gun now. There’s lore and set dressing in Boomerang X, but it’s a brief and basic sprinkling of narrative that mostly serves to give you an excuse for the carnage you’re about to unleash. Your mummified protagonist wakes up in a ruined civilisation and is tasked with defeating the inky beasts that caused the destruction. There’s a fascinating and otherworldly style to the universe of the game, but you only briefly get opportunities to explore and investigate your environments in-between the frequent combat arenas you’ll be spending most of your time in.
The best way to deal with enemies in Boomerang X is to literally throw yourself at them – your boomerang weapon acts as a teleportation tool, letting you zoom to wherever you’ve thrown it with the tap of a button. Tap left-click to toss your boomerang in any direction, then tap it again to teleport to that location. Alternatively, you can hold left-click down to charge your throw or tap right-click to recall a boomerang in mid-flight. It’s a fun tool that adds an entirely unexplored style of movement to the game, but it can be disorienting at first. Thankfully, the task of defeating foes doesn’t complicate things too much – your enemies die in a single hit to their exposed red weak points, and you often only need to defeat a handful of specific enemies within each arena wave in order to progress. The boomerang movement system is a direct return on the effort you put into learning it – wrap your mind around the mechanics and you’ll be zipping across arenas and never even touching the ground.
Of course, things escalate from there. Boomerang X is constantly escalating, in fact: new enemies, tools, and environmental wrinkles drip into the game at a constant rate, ensuring you’ve always got something new to think about. Later into your ‘rang-flinging journey, you unlock two new projectile abilities – a shotgun blast and an instant-kill laser beam. Kill two enemies at once, and you’re gifted use of the shotgun blast. Kill three enemies at once with the shotgun blast, and you get to use the laser beam. It’s a simple yet sadistic risk & reward system – do you go for quick single kills and use nothing but the basic boomerang, or do you try to line up more complicated multi-kills in order to bust out your advanced projectiles?
As much as Boomerang X is willing to constantly evolve and add new wrinkles to the gameplay, it isn’t the hardest arena shooter out there. Later stages certainly emulate the nonstop hectic action of something like Doom Eternal, but your health and shields are pretty generously replenished throughout the game. The closest Boomerang X comes to delivering a truly teeth-clenching challenge is in New Game+ mode – which adds extra monsters of a way stronger variety to each arena. Having to replay the game just to experience that kind of challenge, though, is a bit of a bummer.
On the flipside, the game offers a bevy of tools to make the experience easier or more approachable depending on the kind of player you are. The amount of accessibility options in Boomerang X is exhaustive and incredibly impressive. You can freely customise the colours of enemies, their shields, and their weak points. You can also enable high-contrast mode, edit enemy visibility levels, and way more. These options might not do much for the standard player, but they’re an incredibly welcome suite of tools that ensure as many people as possible can enjoy and appreciate the game.